Sign up FAST! Login

Measuring the Black Hole 660 Million Times as Massive as Our Sun, at the Center of Galaxy NGC 1332


Stashed in: The Universe

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Scientists have measured a black hole that is about 660 million times as massive as our sun, and is encircled by a cloud of gas moving at about 1.1 million miles per hour. The supermassive black hole sits at the center of a galaxy dubbed NGC 1332, which is 73 million light-years from Earth.

Black holes – the most massive typically found at the centers of galaxies – are so dense that their gravity pulls in anything that’s close enough, including light, said Andrew J. Baker, an associate professor in the Astrophycis Group in Rutgers’ Department of Physics and Astronomy. The department is in the School of Arts and Sciences.

A black hole can form after matter, often from an exploding star, condenses via gravity. Supermassive black holes at the centers of massive galaxies grow by swallowing gas, stars and other black holes. But, said Baker, “just because there’s a black hole in your neighborhood, it does not act like a cosmic vacuum cleaner.”

Stars can come close to a black hole, but as long as they’re in stable orbits and moving fast enough, they won’t enter the black hole, said Baker, who has been at Rutgers since 2006.

“The black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which is the biggest one in our own galaxy, is many thousands of light years away from us,” he said. “We’re not going to get sucked in.”

Scientists think every massive galaxy, like the Milky Way, has a massive black hole at its center, Baker said. “The ubiquity of black holes is one indicator of the profound influence that they have on the formation of the galaxies in which they live,” he said.

Understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies is one of the major challenges for modern astrophysics. The scientists’ findings have important implications for how galaxies and their central supermassive black holes form. The ratio of a black hole’s mass to a galaxy’s mass is important in understanding their makeup, Baker said.

You May Also Like: